European Travelling 101: Planes, Trains, and Buses... oh my!

By Megan Stephenson

The beauty of traveling in Europe is the proximity to so many different cultures, languages and countries. If you really put your mind to it, you'd be able to cross numerous borders A DAY as you hopscotch across the continent. But how do you get around? Should you take the train, the bus or even fly from destination to destination? Needless to say, you've got your options.

Footstopper Megan Stephenson gives you the lowdown on European travel and the pros, cons and costs of taking it to the road, the track or the air.

Training Day

Ready... set...

One of the most popular ways to get around Europe for years and years is by train, through popular companies like Eurail (http://www.eurail.com/). The options are endless when it comes to getting your very own Eurail passes. You can choose tickets ranging from flexi-passes that cover only certain countries, passes that are good for a certain amount travel days, or even a pass that is good for traveling everyday on any Eurail Train on the continent. You've got a ton of options, so figure out which one will actually benefit you. A pre-purchased pass before you leave for the big European continent tends to be the best way to save some money, as there are special low rates for non-European citizens.

Traveling by train gives you the opportunity to see the country-side of these unique European countries. It can also be a great way to save a nights hostel costs, for the thriftier traveler, with overnight trains.

Be careful of catching “fast-trains” or other similar speed options as you will have to pay additional fees on top of your Eurail pass. These trains are marked differently on the train schedules as expresses or fast trains most of the time.

Fly Me Away

With the boom of low cost carriers all over Europe, it is now cheap, quick and easy to book your next flight almost anywhere within Europe. With so many different carriers to choose from finding a flight that fits your budget and time-line is as easy as getting some internet time at your closest internet café.

Some of the most well established carriers include:

You can see the sights while on the move too...

  • Ryan Air – U.K (http://www.ryanair.com/site/EN/)
    An Irish airline that is one of the largest low-cost carrier in Europe. Ryan generally tends to have the lowest price to all its focus cities including: Dublin, London, Rome, Pisa, Orio, Frankfurt, Dublin, Liverpool, London, Girona (Spain), Stockholm, Brussels, Manchester, Marseilles, Glasgow, Bremen (Germany), and Weeze (Netherlands)
  • EasyJet – U.K. (http://www.easyjet.com/)
    This is one of the Easy Corporations many branches. This carrier offers competitive prices compared to Ryan Air, and tends to be the lowest cost when in southern Europe. With hubs in London, Geneva, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Berlin, Liverpool, Newcastle, Belfast, Dortmund (Germany), East Midlands - Manchester , Basel (Switzerland), Orly-Paris, Malpensa-Milan, Bristol, Madrid
  • German Wings – German (http://www.germanwings.com/index.en.shtml)
    With hubs in Cologne and Stuttgart, Germany's German Wings is a great carrier if you are planning on staying within Germany, or planning on heading east to cities like Moscow or Poland.
  • Central Wings – Polish (http://www.centralwings.com/)
    With their hub in Warsaw, Poland this carrier is great for getting around Easter Europe.

Taking flights can be a great option when you have a small amount of time and many destinations - or if you're set on seeing certain cities that are further apart. Flights generally range from about 100 to 300 Euros depending on where you are going and how long in advance you purchase the ticket. Some carriers offer even cheaper tickets - especially if you are planning on coming from or going to London through easyJet or Ryanair.

If you are purchasing tickets with low cost carriers I suggest doing price comparisons from provider to provider and booking in advance. The further in advance you book the better selection of flights and the lower the cost of your ticket. Be ready to take a big hit on airport taxes once you purchase the ticket. Also look around for other low cost carriers as there are always better deals and new carriers popping up all the time.

Bus(t a move)

Another option is to take the bus through companies like Eurolines (http://www.eurolines.com/) or even local providers. Depending on what country you are visiting, sometimes taking a train is not an option. For example: if you want to travel from Split to Dubrovnik in Croatia, taking a train is not an option. The bus tends to be your best option and they leave every 20 to 60 minutes from most major towns.

This can be fairly cost effective and in some countries is known to be a safer form of transportation. This is because there are less opportunities for people to get on and off the bus, more open traveling conditions and more people around. This leads to less theft, harassment and so on. If you are a female traveling alone or with another female in countries more south-east, taking a bus is a safer travel option in most countries. In most cities/towns in Europe the train station and bus station are right beside each other, making it easy to use both forms of transportation.

The Famous Double Deckers of London.

Buses, like trains, offer a view of the country side and are good for saving money on hostels with an overnight trip. Unlike trains, buses take regular stops so you can get off the bus and stretch and/or get a bit to eat. Buses also tend to be cheaper than both trains and planes. You can purchase your tickets either online, at the station and (most of the time) directly from the bus driver.

In Da City

Once you get into your location whether it is by train, plan or bus, there is generally public transportation around major cities to get you to or near your final destination. These buses and metros can be a great way to get around a city and do some ‘power sight seeing’ as well. Most of the time you need to purchase your fair ticket before getting on the bus or metro, but of course it varies from city to city.

The metro can be a great option for saving time in a cost-effective way. Although the metro maps of some of the major cities of Europe may be a bit intimidating they are all generally very easy to follow once you get the hang of it. I definitely suggest you grab a free map from one of the Tourist Kiosks/Offices when you get into the city/town; which are generally located in all train stations and also in large tourist traffic areas like city centers. Most maps have the metro and bus maps, as well as a fairly detailed city map of the central areas. This is great to stick in your back pocket and go sight seeing for the day.

Now you know.

Megan is a Footstopper, traveller and regular contributor to the site. Check out her travel blog. She's currently getting ready for a new set of adventures, so be sure to check back.

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